Daily Current Affairs : 24th February 2024

Topics Covered

  1. New Surrogacy law 
  2. Avalanche
  3. Facts for Prelims

1 . New Surrogacy law


Context: The Centre amended the surrogacy Rules on Wednesday to allow couples to use donor eggs or donor sperm for surrogacy. This overturned a previous amendment made in March 2023 that banned the use of donor gametes. 

About the new law 

  • The new notification states: “In case when the District Medical Board certifies that either husband or wife constituting the intending couple suffers from medical condition necessitating use of donor gamete, then surrogacy using donor gamete is allowed.” 
  • While the relaxation is for “intending couple”, the notification said that if a divorced or widowed woman opts for surrogacy, the egg has to come from the mother: “Single woman (widow or divorcee) undergoing surrogacy must use self-eggs and donor sperms to avail surrogacy procedure.” 

What are the implications of this amendment? 

  • Prior to the March 2023 notification  which insisted on the use of both eggs and sperm from the intending couple , surrogacy rules allowed the use of donor eggs, but not sperm. 
  • The March 2023 notification was challenged in the Supreme Court by a woman with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that affects the reproductive system and can cause infertility. 
  • Experts said the new amendment will keep surrogacy open to older women as well as those who cannot produce eggs because of certain medical conditions. 
  • The quality and number of eggs go down with age. While the decline accelerates after the age of 35 years, doctors recommend definitely using a donor egg after the age of 45 years. 
  • A doctor said the need for donor eggs and surrogacy will arise in very few women. Surrogacy with donor egg will be required only for women who do not have a uterus — or have conditions that affect the functioning of the uterus — along with certain conditions affecting their ability to produce eggs. 
  • It happens mainly in women with gonadal dysgenesis — congenital conditions that affect the entire reproductive functioning.  

What are the contentions with surrogacy for single women? 

  • The Act allows access to surrogacy only to two categories of single women — those who are widowed or divorced. Even in these cases, the regulations stipulate that the woman’s own eggs have to be used; this was underlined by the recent notification as well. 
  • These provisions have been challenged in the Delhi High Court by a 44-year-old unmarried woman. The petitioner has questioned the association of marital status with eligibility for surrogacy. She has also challenged the provision mandating the use of the mother’s own eggs, stating that at her age, the use of donor eggs are recommended. 
  • The restriction on access to surrogacy for single persons, live-in couples, and LGBTQ couples too have been criticised. 

In general, for which categories of women is surrogacy intended? 

  • Surrogacy is mainly intended for women who have a missing or abnormal uterus, or have had the uterus surgically removed due to a medical condition. It can also be availed by women who have failed to conceive after multiple rounds of IVF, or women living with conditions that make it impossible for them to carry the pregnancy to term, or which make a pregnancy life-threatening. 
  • If the endometrium is thinner than 8 mm, the woman will not be able to carry the pregnancy to term. It can be because of polyps that the body thinks of as foreign object or because of adhesions in the uterus. We usually see it in women who have undergone an abortion that is not done properly. Medicines can help, but if they don’t, these women would need surrogacy. 
  • the failure of multiple rounds of IVF may not medically necessitate surrogacy. The success of IVF — where the egg and sperm are fertilised outside the body and then implanted to the womb — is about 40% for women under the age of 35 years. 

2 . Avalanche


Context: The avalanche at Gulmarg in Kashmir recently may have been triggered by a group of Russian skiers who did not follow safety norms and ventured into a non-ski zone, investigations carried out by the Gulmarg Avalanche Centre have revealed. One Russian national was killed and another injured in the incident. 
 
About Avalanche

  • During an avalanche, a mass of snow, rock, ice, soil, and other material slides swiftly down a mountainside. 
  • Avalanches of rocks or soil are often called landslides. Snowslides, the most common kind of avalanche, can sweep downhill faster than the fastest skier. 
  • A snow avalanche begins when an unstable mass of snow breaks away from a slope. The snow picks up speed as it moves downhill, producing a river of snow and a cloud of icy particles that rises high into the air. The moving mass picks up even more snow as it rushes downhill. 
  • A large, fully developed avalanche can weigh as much as a million tons. It can travel faster than 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour. 
  • Avalanches occur as layers in a snowpack slide off. A snowpack is simply layers of snow that build up in an area, such as the side of a mountain. In winter, repeated snowfalls build a snowpack dozens of meters thick. The layers vary in thickness and texture. 
  • The bonds between the layers of a snowpack may be weak. Melted snow that refreezes may cause a slick coating of ice to form on the surface of a layer. A new snowfall may not stick to this slippery layer, and it may slide off. During spring thaw, melted snow can seep through a snowpack, making the surface of a lower layer slippery. Added weight or vibration can easily send the top layers of a snowpack hurtling downhill. 

Types of Avalanche

  • There are two main types of snow avalanches—sluffs and slabs. 
    • Sluff avalanches occur when the weak layer of a snowpack is on the top. A sluff is a small slide of dry, powdery snow that moves as a formless mass. Sluffs are much less dangerous than slab avalanches. 
    • A slab avalanche occurs when the weak layer lies lower down in a snowpack. This layer is covered with other layers of compressed snow. When the avalanche is triggered, the weak layer breaks off, pulling all the layers on top of it down the slope. These layers tumble and fall in a giant block, or slab. 
    • Once a slab avalanche starts, the slab shatters into many separate blocks. These snow blocks break up into ever-smaller pieces. Some of the pieces rise into the air as a moving cloud of icy particles. The cloud races downhill at very high speeds. 
    • The thickness and speed of slab avalanches make them a threat to skiers, snowboarders, mountaineers, and hikers. In the mountains of the western United States, there are about 100,000 avalanches each year. Avalanches kill more than 150 people worldwide each year. Most are snowmobilers, skiers, and snowboarders. 

Causes

  • Storminess, temperature, wind, the steepness of the slope, terrain, vegetation, and general snowpack conditions are all factors that influence whether an avalanche happens and what type occurs. 
  • Snow avalanches are most likely to occur after a fresh snowfall adds a new layer to a snowpack. If new snow piles up during a storm, the snowpack may become overloaded, setting off a slide.  
  • Earthquakes can set off avalanches, but much smaller vibrations can trigger them as well. A single skier can cause enough vibrations to set off a slide. In fact, 90 percent of avalanche incidents involving people are triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s party. 
  • Currently, scientists are not able to predict with certainty when and where avalanches will happen. However, they can estimate hazard levels by checking on the snowpack, temperature, and wind conditions. 

3 . Facts for Prelims


PAPA

  • Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA) payload onboard the Aditya-L1 has detected the impact of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). 
  • PAPA is an energy and mass analyser designed for in-situ measurements of solar wind electrons and ions in the low energy range. 
  • It has two sensors: the Solar Wind Electron Energy Probe (SWEEP, measuring electrons in the energy range of 10 eV to 3 keV) and the Solar Wind Ion Composition Analyser (SWICAR, measuring ions in the energy range of 10 eV to 25 keV and mass range of 1-60 amu). 
  • The sensors are also equipped to measure the direction of arrival of solar wind particles. The payload has been operational since December 12, 2023. 

Gray zone warfare 

  • Grey-zone warfare is a kind of a military action below a particular threshold that would invite a response. 
  • In Grey-zone warfare the dividend of the action may be available only after a long time. 
  • The gray zone describes a set of activities that occur between peace (or cooperation) and war (or armed conflict). 
  • A multitude of activities fall into this murky in-between—from nefarious economic activities, influence operations, and cyberattacks to mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns. 
  • Generally, gray-zone activities are considered gradualist campaigns by state and non-state actors that combine non-military and quasi-military tools and fall below the threshold of armed conflict. 
  • They aim to thwart, destabilize, weaken, or attack an adversary, and they are often tailored toward the vulnerabilities of the target state. 

Third-Party Application Provider (TPAP)

  • TPAPs refer to (API), which are either standalone applications or applications that add functionality to an existing parent program / system 
  • In the financial space, third party apps are often connected to a banking application to provide a variety of services.  
  • A third party app sends a request to the linked banking application for permission to access the user’s bank details, which is further relayed by the banking application to the customer to authenticate the request. 
  • These apps provide flexibility and freedom to consumers to select solutions they find most convenient to meet their financial needs. 

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